Karnataka’s roaring tiger story threatened by snares

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Two of the cats died in the span of a fortnight near Nagarahole after getting caught in traps. The Hindu reported last Tuesday.

The death of six tigers in the new year on the fringes of Karnataka’s Nagarahole and Bandipur Tiger Reserves, both conservation success stories, has thrown up tough questions for conservators.

Last Sunday, when a six-year-old tigress was found dead with its spine snapped, near Srimangala in Kodagu, on the periphery of Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, it highlighted the growing challenge. The animal had got trapped in a snare set for wild boar in a coffee estate, the second such incident in a fortnight. The rest of the tiger casualties arose from natural causes or unsuccessful attempts to tranquilize and capture.

The Forest Department went into a huddle and drew up a plan to comb the buffer zones of the reserves for snares as well as tigers that have ventured out. While Karnataka has an estimated 406 tigers, 221 were recorded in Nagarahole and adjoining Bandipur forests, among the highest densities of tiger populations anywhere.

The conservation strategies now include placing camera traps on forest fringes and deploying elephants for combing operations. “Our priority is to track tiger movements, map the areas and prevent any harm to them,” said Conservator of Forests Manoj Kumar.

National Tiger Conservation Authority officials inspected the spots of deaths.

Since core forest areas have benefited from protection, officials are now trying to reduce the spillover impact of the tiger population on buffer zones. This follows an increase in cattle kills and presence of older tigers ejected from their territories by younger males. A total of 21 tigers have died since January 2016 around Nagarahole and Bandipur, many of them in territorial fights. With the big cat’s population in the core areas reaching saturation point, officials and activists think there is bound to be higher mortality and man-tiger conflict.

Conservation scientist K. Ullas Karanth from the Centre for Wildlife Studies says camera traps recorded over 100 tigers in the area aged over one year. “This indicates a strong upswing in the population, and with this, tiger deaths naturally rise. With the current populations, 10 to 15 tigers will die annually as they jostle for space. However, on mitigation, there should be a science-based approach, of detailed study of population, prey densities and migrations. This is lacking,” he said.

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